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The Convicted Megan's Law Offender and the PCRA

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The Post Conviction Relief Act or "PCRA" precludes relief for collateral consequences of a Megan's Law sentence.

By Attorney Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, Megan's Law Attorney, Harrisburg, PA

The PCRA provides for the sole means of relief at the state level for those convicted of crimes and "currently serving" a sentence.  It was unclear for a time as to whether someone could obtain PCRA relief if they were incarcerated or serving a sentence of probation at the time when relief was granted.  In 1997, the legislature amended 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9543(a)(1) to make this clear by adding the phrase "at the time relief is granted." Thus, under § 9543(a)(1), the petitioner must plead and prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the petitioner has been convicted of a crime under the laws of the Commonwealth and is, at the time relief is granted,

  1. Currently serving a sentence of imprisonment, probation or parole for the crime;
  2. Awaiting execution of a sentence of death for the crime; or
  3. Serving a sentence which must expire before the person may commence serving the disputed sentence.

The Post Conviction Relief Act or "PCRA" precludes relief for collateral consequences of a Megan's Law sentence.  The reporting requirements of Megan's Law are not a "sentence of imprisonment, probation or parole for the crime" for which the PCRA may provide relief. Rather, the reporting requirements are a "collateral consequence" of conviction.  Com. v. Williams, 2009 PA Super 121, 977 A.2d 1174 (2009), appeal denied, 990 A.2d 730 (Pa. 2010).  The Superior Court held that a "collateral consequence" was an unintended consequence of the sentence.  For example, a license suspension for a DUI conviction or the loss of a professional license for a nurse convicted of a drug possession charge.  Accordingly, the requirement to register under Megan's Law was not a criminal punishment, but a separate civil requirement.  Therefore, not criminal sanction that can be afforded PCRA relief.

If you've just been sentenced to a Megan's Law, SORNA, or Adam Walsh Act crime, there are limited circumstances to allow for relief from your registration requirements.  You need to contact an attorney as soon as possible so as to not waive any potential claims or rights.  Contact Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC toll free or email us today.

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